If you are following me on Twitter (and I hope you are), you know the last month has been extremely busy. This week I worked with clinicians in Peterborough, Ontario Canada. Last week, I was in Nashville, Tennessee and Richmond Virginia. Prior to that, I spent nearly two weeks in Europe, providing training and consultations in the Netherlands and Belgium.
It was, as always, a pleasure meeting and working with clinicians representing a wide range of disciplines (social workers, case managers, psychologists, psychiatrists, professional counselors, alcohol and drug treatment professionals, etc.) and determined to provide the best service possible. As tiring as “road work” can sometimes be, my spirits are always buoyed by the energy of the individuals, groups, and agencies I meet and work with around the world.
At the same time, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fear and hardship I’m witnessing among providers and treatment agencies each week as I’m out and about. Frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it in my seventeen years “on the road.” Being able to say that we predicted the current situation nearly 6 years ago provides little comfort (see The Heroic Client, 2004).
While nearly all are suffering, the economic crisis in the United States is hitting public behavioral health particularly hard. In late January I blogged about the impact of budget cuts in Ohio. Sadly, the situations in Virginia and Tennessee are no different. Simply put, public behavioral health agencies are expected to do more with less, and most often with fewer providers. What can be done?
Enter Chesterfield Community Service Board. Several years ago, I met and began working with Larry Barnett, Lyn Hill, and the rest of the talented clinical staff at this forward thinking public behavioral health agency. Their goal? According to the agency mission statement, “to promote improved quality of life…through exceptional and comprehensive mental health, mental retardation, substance abuse, and early intervention services.” Their approach? Measure and monitor the process and outcome of service delivery and use the resulting information to improve productivity and performance.
As Larry and Lynn report in the video below, the process was not easy. Indeed, it was damn difficult–full of long hours, seemingly endless discussions, and tough, tough choices. But that was then. Some three years later, the providers at Chesterfield CSB are serving 70% more people than they did in 2007 despite there being no increase in available staff resources in the intervening period. That’s right, 70%! And that’s not all. While productivity rates soared, clinician caseloads were reduced by nearly 30%. As might be expected, the time consumers in need of services had to wait was also significantly reduced.
In short, everybody won: providers, agency managers, funders, and consumers. And thanks to the two days of intensive training in Richmond, Virginia organized by Arnold Woodruff, many additional public behavioral health agencies have the information needed to get started. It won’t be easy. However, as the experience in Chesterfield demonstrates, it is possible to survive and thrive during these tumultuous times. But don’t take my word for it, listen to how Larry and Lynn describe the process–warts and all–and the results: